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THEATRE IN THE NONTHEATRICAL SPACE

KETEVAN SHAVGULIDZE
Tbilisi State Academy of Arts
Grigol Robakidze University
Ivane Javakhishili Tbilisi State University


“The idea of theatre is lost because it is content with the status of a spectator, an observer… Accordingly, indifference of the audience towards the theatre and interest in the cinema and music hall is understandable.” Antonin Artaud
It is natural that in the late 19th century, the representatives of theatrical naturalism became interested in performing in actual space. The perspective of breaking through the boundaries of stage box was only theoretical possibility in their creative art, as the possibility, which was implied by the aesthetics of theatrical naturalism. After the Second World War, overcoming the obstacles, existing in the traditional theatres and “breaking through” the stage box gained the priority. In the 1960-70s (in parallel with the ongoing processes in Fine Arts), the innovator artists (pioneers of environmental theatre in USA and Europe) have announced the war against differentiated traditional (stage hall) theatrical space. A desire to delete the border between the real and imaginary worlds created at the theatre, predetermined creation of new movement, which attracted several theatre studios and youth and experimental theatrical groups (“Cricot 2” of Tadeusz Kantor, R. Schechner’s “Performing Garage”, E. Grotovski’s “Teatr Laboratorium”, J. Malina’s „The Living Theatre”, E. Stewart’s experimental Theatrical Club “La Mama”, A. Mnushkina’s “Thйвtre du Soleil”, J. Chaikin’s “Open Theatre”, J. Cino’s “Caff e Cino”, P. Schumann’s “Bread & Puppet”, etc.). Diffusion of the stage and the hall was impossible under the conditions of architecture of traditional theatre. New space was required, the space, which would not “allow” existence of two zones divided by the portal arch. The plays have moved to unusual environment: street, square, cellar, car park, plant, cafe, nonfunctioning church, etc. The practice of performing in nontheatrical environment is based on three main principles:
1. Neutralization of the space and total liquidation of its functional features;
2. Preservation of authentic architecture (aimed at creating specific atmosphere);
3. “Ready” space, selected and exploited in compliance with the action environment of the play. The producers and artists in the former Soviet Union (N. Belyak and V. Kharitonov) responded to the idea of environmental theatre but, due to the existing political situation, by occasional experiments only. The only example (although quite significant and typical) of environmental theatre in Georgia became available from 1975. The theatre was functioning in the nonfunctioning Metekhi church (at that time, the plan was to transform the church into a concert hall). Until 1988, it became stationary theatrical building. The church interior was losing authenticity and in certain cases, was perceived as the theatrical decoration only (initial function of the building was giving place to the new one). The principles of theatrical conventionality were not ignored in the plays, performed in real interior and the performances were based on the arbitrary choice of time and place of action. Nevertheless, in the nontheatrical space, correlation between the scale of “stage” and “hall” determined special form of “live” contact between the performers and audience, specific of the integrated theatrical space. Metekhi Theatre could not combine the function of play narrator illustrator and offered new “role” – active participation – to the passive contemplator audience in this homogeneous, diffusive space.

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